Friday, December 31, 2010
Wow, breaks are nice, aren't they?--even from something you enjoy. I originally intended to finish my holiday blogging break early last week, but I got so caught up in cleaning our house for the new year and hanging out with the chicks that I kept stretching it out.
And now, it's time for a blogiversary. A year ago today I sat down and began "Two Chicks and a Hen," a blog whose title came from Ninna who observed that, in our home that newly housed three instead of four, we were, in fact, two chicks and a hen. She doesn't know she named the blog, nor that the blog exists for that matter, but she did.
I cited several of my reasons for starting this blog here, but looking back, I realize there was a bigger reason that trumps all of those: I wanted to feel normal. Four months before I sat down and composed my first post, I had become a single mom. The image of myself as part of a family that I held so sacredly in my mind was shattered. Still deeply valuing family, and still wanting to uphold the ideals I'd always held as a mother, I vowed to myself that my parenting values and goals would stay, come hell or high water.
I didn't know what that meant for how things would turn out (and only a year and a half into this journey, I still don't), but I did know that the random collected tidbits about life in single-parent homes that floated around in my mind, when added together, formed a composite that differed greatly from the life I envisioned for my chicks. And so I've had to reformulate my vision for our lives while addressing (and sometimes ignoring, if I'm to be totally honest) those fears about what might happen.
And what better way to take note of my small successes in maintaining normalcy than to record in words and images the small things that keep us on our path to a simple, sustainable, creative life than to put them down in a blog?
The icing on the cake is that some other nice things have come along with this record I've been keeping of our lives. I've so enjoyed sharing things with my readers and receiving feedback. I've made several "blog friends" and had some great ongoing conversations with the awesome people who come and read my blog. My projects have been featured on some fun sites like The Crafty Crow. And I've even become the regular single parenting contributor for Simple Kids--something that, a year ago, would not even have been on my radar.
So as a way to celebrate, and as a thank you to all of you lovely people, I've decided to follow in the blogiversary tradition of offering a giveaway! I'm so excited to send something fun off to one of you out there. All you need to do is leave me a comment telling us about one of your goals for the new year. I'll draw a number at random on Monday, January 9th, and that person will be the lucky recipient of this (courtesy of our overflowing book and craft supply collections):
**For you or a parent in your life:Happy Times Together: Simple Fun Activities and Yummy Recipes to Share with Children
**For your little people or some you know:The Do-It-Yourself Project Book
**And some crafty goodies to play with
If you like what you read here at Two Chicks and a Hen, it would really make my day if you joined up as a follower and/or subscribed to my blog in your blog reader. My statcounter shows me that there are lots more of you coming than are visible, and that many of you are coming back again and again. I'd love to be able to "see" you and even more would love to know who you are and why you've taken the time to read about our journey.
Have a lovely, wonderful, simple, sustainable, and creative new year! Thank you again for joining us. It means so much to me. I'm excited about things to come in the new year, both online and off, and I love it that we can share our journeys together in this platform.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
A few days later, we made peppermint candy cane scented playdough. We used our favorite method for adding the color during the kneading, and then I added a few drops of peppermint essential oil to add to the sensory experience.
And finally, tonight. We had a lovely and very delicious fondue winter solstice dinner by candlelight, again with our neighbors. A Gruyere sauce with whole grain bread, peppers, broccoli, and sausage for the dinner, and a caramel/butterscotch sauce with oranges, clementines, pears, apples, and bananas for the dessert. Yum!****
I can't believe Christmas is literally right around the corner. Better get to work!
Friday, December 17, 2010
And if you've just made it here for the first time from Simple Kids--Welcome! This is my space to share the fun, silly, and messy things I do with my chicks. I hope you find an idea or two you can use yourself. The "Labels" list on the bottom right-hand side is a good place to start.
Happy Weekend! I'm thinking I'll take a bit of a blog break and come back on Monday.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Ninna is snoozing, I'm typing in the dark and thoroughly looking forward to closing my eyes, and Bojey is sleeping in her bed, having been too overly-excited to settle down in the living room. Like every other night, she'll venture out later to look for me, and she'll then join us in the campout.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Our advent calendar. Last year I bought a set of 24 blank white boxes on clearance from Michael's (they're Martha Stewart wedding favor boxes) and, using glitter glue, labeled each with a number. I only intended to use them for one year because I was going to sew a big fancy one this year...which didn't happen. I saved them just in case I might need them. Good call, me. I only wish they didn't look like I wrote the numbers with my eyes closed:Earlier this year, I found a vintage Christmas papercraft/card book at the thrift store. The biggest project was this mobile. After Ninna painstakingly glue-sticked every square millimeter of the pieces, I hung them with thread. Now I'm inspired to make more mobiles: There's a new way to pass the time around here--laying under the tree. Bonus points if you can hit an ornament with your foot: Painted glass ornaments drying upside down (to allow excess paint to drip out)
I really do love this time of year.
So check them out!
(Back later--just needed to share that.)
EDITED TO ADD: His music is not all necessarily, um, upbeat. Just a warning ;).
Sunday, December 12, 2010
So for a number of reasons, most of which have nothing to with being green, I sold our car today, and the chicks and the hen will from here on out travel by foot or public transportation.
In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing monumental about this occasion. People all over the world go about their daily business without cars. Lots and lots of people in my very own city go without cars, including families, some of whom are my friends.
But...I grew up in the suburbs! In the Midwest! And then, after living in Athens, Georgia for a few years, I moved to California where, again, everyone has a car. So I am just so accustomed to having one. It took me a long time to wrap my head around the idea of having kids and not having a car, even before I was a single mom.
I slowly began to shift my perceptions, and I could finally see how it could make sense. I'm pretty sure I won't go the rest of my life without having a car (though, who knows--maybe I will), but I'm actually really excited to take the plunge into this new adventure. We will, on occasion, rent a car--either for a day trip or to go out of town. Beyond that, we will be traveling light and green. Wish us luck!
Friday, December 10, 2010
Day Six: Make a paper chain to count down to Grandma and Grandpa's arrival.
I almost named this day "holiday paper crafts," and I had three things planned. I decided to cut it down to just the paper chain and add the others if we had time. I should always know that simpler is better, and I should remember the way time works in the chicks' world. The paper chain was plenty for one day. They had never seen one before, so I had to explain what it was and why we were making it, and then I demonstrated one loop. I had them decorate sheets of red and green paper with red and green markers. Then we all sat on the floor with scissors and cut paper strips (an activity which both of my chicks could engage in for hours on end if given the opportunity). By the time we looped and glue-sticked, Bojey was long done with the project, and more crafts would have been impossible.
Day Seven: Purchase an egg-laying hen to donate to a needy community through Oxfam
The advent calendar I made last year involved a ton of crafty projects, a few "field trips," and a few random other things thrown in to fill up days. I liked the general approach, but in addition to including yearly rituals this year, I also wanted to include more giving/charitable/not about getting or making "stuff" types of activities. We really don't have extra to donate, but a single chicken donation is only $15.
This was a very kid-friendly donation in that it was very concrete. Ninna and I talked about families without enough to eat, and then I sat her with me at the computer and found the totally absurd photo of a chicken in a gift box on Oxfam's site. I read a bit about Oxfam and some of their critics, and I hope this was a good decision. I'm always nervous about whether a charitable organization is really doing what I hope it's doing.
Day Eight: Write and illustrate our own Christmas storybooks
This is a tradition we started last year. We make a lot of books around here, most often on Ninna's request when she invents a story (like the one in which the Magic School Bus turns into a fish and the headlights are its eyes). Last year I made her a blank book and had her tell me a Christmas story. I wrote it down, and she illustrated it. We're still working on this year's, so I don't really have a photo yet.
Day Nine: Make painted glass ornaments
Last year we bought plain "blank" transparent glass bulb ornaments and, based on a tutorial, the origin of which I've long since forgotten, poured in various colors of paint and swirled them around. This creates a sort of marbled or tied-dyed effect, and the results are beautiful. This day fell on a Thursday, the end of Ninna's school week, and the chicks were so tired, we never got around to making them, which is why we then have...
Day Ten: Make painted glass ornaments
And now I'm about to sound really lame. We didn't get to them today, either! This morning was filled with such great imaginative play that I just couldn't interrupt it for a "forced" activity. The chicks played animal hospital, among many other things, bringing me stuffed animals that had suffered the wrath of our former cat who compulsively ate fabric, to sew and repair. Ninna made projects, Bojey danced, and then the next thing I knew, it was lunchtime, naptime, and then time to start getting the chicks ready to go to their dad's for the weekend.
So, lame it is. But I'd much rather go with the flow than stress out about having do to something just because I wrote it on the advent calendar plan. I bet you know what I have planned for Sunday...
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Day One: Open the Christmas boxes.
Such a great day one activity! For starters, it's so obviously appropriate. It also meets the criteria I came up with this year: Whenever possible, choose an activity we would be likely to do anyway. I know that sounds lazy and cheap, almost like giving your kids toilet paper and toothpaste for their birthdays, killing two birds with one stone. What I found as a drawback last year, however, was that while almost all of the activities we did were fun, it at times became stressful to try to squeeze in so many extra things. So from here on out, some things will be extras, but some things will do double-duty. So yes, we would have opened the boxes of Christmas stuff even without the fancy advent calendar, but the chicks don't seem to mind.
Two chicks examining the bag of last year's Christmas crafts:
Will the world look different if I view it through this blue glass pear ornament?
Day Two: Simple Orange Pomanders.
Day Three: Painted Walnut Ornaments.
This is the second year we've made these with our neighbors downstairs. I don't yet have photos of the ones we made this year as we left them to dry in their dining room and haven't been back to pick them up. The original idea came from Design Sponge, but we changed it up a bit. Instead of cutting and bending wire and hot-glueing it into the walnut, we simply screwed in tiny eye hooks from the dollar store--super easy. Then you decorate them however you want--we used glitter last year and red, green, gold, and silver paint this year. Thread some ribbon, string, yarn, etc. through the eye hook, and you're good to go. Some photos of last year's:
Day Four: Chop down the Christmas tree.
The chicks and I got into the car the second it started to snow Saturday morning (and, I might add, it has hardly stopped since). We drove out into the country ("into another part of the land!" as Ninna put it) to a tiny town called Sainte-Angèle-de-Monnoir. According to 2006 statistics, 97.83% of the town speaks French only, and the percentage of bi-lingual citizens is exactly 0.00.
I've mentioned my experience speaking French in Montreal briefly on the blog, but the general gist is this: my brain becomes immediately paralyzed whenever I'm in a situation that forces me to speak French. I studied French in high school and in college, but anyone who has spent time in Montreal will tell you that the French you learn from a textbook in the States is not the French you hear in Montreal. When we first moved here, I literally couldn't understand a single word outside of "bonjour," as the pronunciation and emphasis are so drastically different. I've come a long way since then, and I can understand a lot more, but I still have a long way to go. And the fact that I mentally freak out whenever French is required of me is certainly not helping.
So, the Christmas tree farm in Sainte-Angèle-de-Monnoir. Let's just say that after the hayride dropped us off and Ninna chose the first tree in sight (and I chopped it down myself, woohoo!), I was resorting to hand signals to let the absolutely-French-only hayride guy know that we wanted back on now, and not to wait for it to come around again, lest we freeze to the bone.
And it turns out that I should have actually looked at the tree Ninna ran to since it's extraordinarily wide and takes up half our living room. Oops! And, no pics. The snow was coming down pretty hard, and I was afraid of ruining my camera.
Day Five: Decorate the Christmas tree
Yep, another "we would have done it anyway" activity. This has actually been dragged out over many days since during our first attempt, I discovered that every single string of Christmas lights we had was broken. I still let the chicks go ahead and put ornaments on the bottom, so they could feel like they were decorating, but we didn't actually get lights on until yesterday.
Two chicks and a tree:
Back tomorrow with more Advent catch-up.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
**Potty training (or potty teaching, or teaching to potty, or whichever semantics you prefer)
**How to prevent all the other members of the household from getting sick when one comes down with a cold/flu
**How to enter a store with an un-strollered two year old and come out a sane woman
It's been a loooooooooooong week. Or two. But things are looking up! I hope to be back tonight with something fun.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The answer, of course, is stuff like this: orange pomander balls made for Advent, day two.
Making these was calming and meditative and really a multi-sensory experience. I considered writing a tutorial, but we skipped a few steps and so didn't make real pomander balls, but they're close enough in my book. There are lots of other great tutorials out there anyway.
Ninna worked diligently, silently, and with great concentration. Bojey didn't last nearly as long as she found it much more entertaining to cover a baby doll with dried cloves